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Aspirates in Korean: Perspectives on Coalescence, CL, and Gemination Kim, Soomee


Korean non-continuant obstruents are typologically unusual in that they have a three-way contrast, but they are all voiceless. The three different categories are often called plain (lenis), tense (fortis), and aspirated. Although the fact that Korean non-continuant obstruents have three different types of phonation is well-established, the underlying representation, either structural or featural, of each type has not reached a consensus and still undergoes a lot of controversy. In this study, I focus on the aspirated consonants and argue that they are underlyingly geminates With a specified [s.g.] feature. This is supported by a phonological phenomenon called aspiration, which is analyzed as coalescence. Sumner argues for a view of Compensatory Lengthening in which Compensatory Lengthening results from the coalescence rather than deletion of a segment (Sumner 1999). In the present thesis, I argue that aspirated consonants in Modern Seoul Korean are geminates (cf. Martin 1951 who proposes aspirates are clusters; Kim J. 1986, Kim S. 1990, Jun 1989, 1991, 1994 who also posit a geminate analysis). The geminate structure of aspirates, either underlying or derived, is underlyingly contrastive, and a surface result of morphophonemic alternation which I argue is the result of Compensatory Lengthening under a coalescence interpretation. For the analysis, I use an Optimality Theory account (Prince & Smolensky 1993) within moraic theory (Hyman 1985, among others). I also show that the asymmetry between progressive and regressive aspiration that used to be treated by derivational theory can be solved within Benua's (1997) Transderivational Correspondence Theory. The goal of this research is to provide a complete account of aspiration in Korean within Optimality Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1993, 1995, Prince & Smolensky 1993) with its implications for the current theory of phonological representation.

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